Something I wrote.
The Unlikely Suicide
Part One: Death As Your Companion
What would make a person do it?
My aunt used to say there is nothing in life that is bad enough to make a person want to take their life. After a her son died, she altered her philosophy slightly, instead saying that there is nothing in life that would give a person the right to take their own life, even if they want to take it, even if they have nothing left to live for. My aunt was Christian. Was. She’s dead now.
What would make a person choose to die?
My mind is deteriorating. It’s not hard to tell; I feel myself getting weaker every day, powerless to stop it. I sleep for four hours, I am tired. I sleep for eight hours, I am tired. I sleep for fourteen hours, I am tired. I drink coffee, I go running, I trail the city late at night, and I am tired. Nothing thrills me, nothing snaps me out of a daze and reminds me why I’m still here, there is no adrenaline burst, no buzz, no break, no epiphany, only this continued, aching tiredness and a simple disinterest, or would that be uninterest?
I should be angry that I can’t even summon the energy to live life to the fullest, being young and perfectly healthy, but I can’t even feel that, so I bought a will and last testament last Tuesday. I don’t know what for, even if I had somebody to leave something for, I don’t have anything to give them.
When my sister was almost dead, she said strange things, things that seriously scared me and paralysed my shoulders and fingers, but at least she never told me she was ‘tired’, which in itself would have been more symbolic than me saying it. My sister was vibrant and full of energy that she transferred to me on a daily basis. I curled up at home with books, but whenever she was around, she filled me with daring.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m being called...” she said suddenly, on the last train home after a night out. I had my eye of the drunk at the other end of the carriage and hadn’t really been listening, instead wondering if I should’ve kept my personal alarm in my pocket instead of my handbag as he stumbled towards us. “... called to... the other side.” The words only half-registered. Once the drunk passed us, swaying and stumbling his way to the other end of the carriage for no apparent reason, I relaxed and tried to catch up with the conversation.
“To the... the what? Sorry, say that again.”
She had a vacant look, her body swayed with the rattle of the train. Her bare shoulders hunched upwards slightly, tense. “They want me there.”
“Aunty. Nana. They want me with them.”
I stared at her. As disturbing as it was, I didn’t want to think that she was ‘going’. Leaving the realm of the living. Bloody hell, she’s my bloody sister – I don’t want to face up to the fact that any day now she might burst an artery. And yet, she never seemed concerned. If she was scared about dying, I wish she’d done something appropriate like cry, so I’d at least have known she was being sombre and not having a moment of delirium. Instead, she only gave a sad little smile, but after a short sigh, a sparkle was back in her eyes and we didn’t speak about it again. A light coughed tickled her. Suddenly a violence took hold, and instantly her hand was at her mouth, a Kleenex tissue acting as a barrier. I noted how good she was getting at getting a tissue out quickly, but when I saw splotches of blood as she put it away, I couldn’t see anything good about anything.
Considering that she rarely gets sick, it didn’t actually seem like much when it first started happening. The coughing, fainting, bleeding. It happened sporadically so no one thought it was a big deal. But I knew. You’d just be able to tell, wouldn’t you? That your time was near...
Actually, no. Our whole family was oblivious for a long time. By the time warning lights switched on, my sister’s life-light was beginning to flicker off. Almost every day since, her coughing, bleeding and fainting was a regular occurrence.
With a start of fear, I realised that a stranger was sitting opposite us in the carriage, silent and foreboding, but he looked as if he was behind a sheet of fog. It didn’t make sense to explain it in any way, but if I had to, I’d say that he looked a little... blurred at the edges, like some ghost, like he wasn’t really there. I assumed the person was male because of their build, but thinking twice, I guess I never really knew. I inspected him out of the corner of my eye in the bored way you do when you’re on the train with nothing else to focus on but curious little people that you’ll never meet again. It was only after about twenty minutes that I remembered that the whole reason we’d gotten onto this carriage was because it was empty. Only one person had gotten on after us – and that was the drunk.
So who was this?
Suddenly I was on edge. Casually, I leaned over to my sister. “You know the guy in the long black –” What was he wearing? I just couldn’t tell. The more I looked, the fuzzier his image became. “- coat,” I made up, “- when did he get on?”
She sat in silence for a long time, before she looked at me. Her eyebrows were knotted in that way that could be scathing, condescending, expectant or confused, depending on the shape her mouth made to compliment her eyebrows. This time, her lips pursed, giving me a weird but ultimately confused look.
I frowned, wondering if I was going to have to explain something very simple to a very dumb girl.
“You mean the drunk?”
I tutted at her irritatedly. “The drunk isn’t even wearing a coat.”
“Exactly.” She said, with the small incredulous laugh she makes when somebody has proved her point. “So what are you talking about?”
I looked back to the figure, and almost choked. I looked back to my sister Olivia, now wearing a concerned look. Then I looked across the carriageway again, but the person who sat there was the same person who sat beside me. I was looking at two versions of my sister.
There have been countless depictions of Death over the ages. Personally, I quite like the one of Lucifer, the angel too bright and yet too cunning for Heaven. I never cared much for the big mound in the willowy cloak and a scythe in a hand of bones, but I don’t think my own depiction was much different from that. I suppose, being finite human beings, we can only work with what we know. Saying that, where my subconscious decided to come up with a shimmering black figure, I don’t know. And why Death has such an attitude, I will never understand.
I was doing my normal washing-up routine, going through the motions without actually caring whether or not the cutlery was clean. The sponge rubbed over utensils made in China, hand-painted crockery, and gadgets that make cooking easy.
As I slid the sponge over my favourite cooking knife, a black-gloved hand covered mine, the feel of leather sticking to my hand via friction, and the tip of the knife moved instantly to my neck, the tip gently resting against where my adam’s apple would have been, had I been born male.
“It intrigues you, doesn’t it?”
The voice was soothing enough to fall asleep to, too low to be female, too melodic to be male, too gentle, too quiet, too piercing to be human. It filled my head. Despite all of its beautiful qualities, it sounded like noise – like the faint crackle you hear from a radio, an untuned TV, or an ancient record player where its needle is about to translate plastic into music. It was that ongoing static, an awful drone that made me grit my teeth. A migraine threatened to fall.
“You’re curious. That’s natural.” The hand gently pressed my own, making the tip of the knife do a little less resting and a little more poking. “Remember when... you first learnt to swim? Surrounded by all that water? Remember... how happy you were at not only learning a new skill... but feeling like you’d entered a new world?”
It was the only childhood memory I’d had of my whole family being together on an outing, including both sets of grandparents before they passed. I’d never forget.
“How comforting would it be to let yourself be consumed by that liquid again... blood running down your neck and soaking your clothes... covering yourself in it... learning the skill of release... entering the world of sleep. You look tired, Saellie. Would you like to go there?”
“Yes...” I sighed, my eyes drooping. The gloved hand moved the knife to the left side of my neck, just under my chin, and lightly traced a line from ear to ear with the tip. “I am very, very tired...”
“I know.” Death said gently. “You should sleep. You’ll feel better.”
“But... I don’t want to die.” I said, and suddenly it was like I was fighting for breath. The hand didn’t tighten its grip, neither did it release its hold. It seemed like an age before my fingers uncurled; the soapy cooking knife dropped into the sink with a loud clang and clatter. A tiny bead of blood had appeared on my neck.
“Oh...” I leaned over the drain, feeling as if the last bit of my sanity had escaped down that dark hole. “What is happening to me?”
“Don’t be alarmed. That is what life is all about... discovering how effortless, how pointless it is. Meaningless. Futile. Aren’t you tired?” the voice prompted again.
I turned to look at the figure. It seemed to be male, but I couldn’t be sure. This time, it really was wearing a long black coat, with black leather gloves and boots, a smart grey fedora hat, and a startlingly white mask, with a small red tear of blood painted underneath one eye. No mouthhole, no nosehole, and eyeholes were black pits. It seemed to fade at the edges, like before. The less I concentrated on it, the clearer it became. The more I tried to focus, the more of a phantom it became.
“You’re Death. Right?” I said, touching the back of my hand where I’d felt it’s leather glove. Unbelievable how real it had seemed. Just another indication that I’d finally lost my mind.
“If you say so, Saellie.”
“Sorry, I didn’t ask that correctly. Are you Death? That’s a direct question,” I added, sensing another nonchalant answer.
“I am if you say so, Saellie.”
I couldn’t help but feel a little pissed off at its remarkable attitude. “So... you want me dead, is that right? You want me to die? Yes? No?”
“I only want you to realise what you want. What you really want.” Death tiled its head forward, its mask narrowing horizontally. “You want to kill yourself. That is what you want.”
“So... you do want me to die.”
“No. You are not listening. There is a difference between dying and killing yourself. Killing yourself guarantees that you will die, but dying does not necessarily mean that you have killed yourself.”
Oh fuck. I've conjured up a fucking psychopath.
“You conjured me up. You are the psychopath.” Death pointed out.
I was shocked into silence by the truth of it. I don't know what came over me, but words spurted from my mouth like blood from a wound. “I don’t want to kill myself,” I whimpered, glancing back at the knife in the sink. Soap spuds slid of it and dispersed at an achingly slow pace.
“That is what everyone expects you to say.” Death nodded once. “And you are scared of pain, like everybody else. But I am here to help you.”
“You’re here to help me... kill myself, then.”
“No,” Death whispered, although saying that is odd because its voice always seemed to be a whisper. But in saying this particular phrase, its voice took on a chilling quiet I hadn’t heard before. “You are still not listening. I want you to realise what you want. And you want to sleep...”
This was worse than I’d thought. There is nothing worse than having a mind that creates someone who talks in circles. I’ll have to get my doctor to up my dose of anti-depressants.
“That’s a good idea,” Death said, its masked face jerking up as if suddenly animated. “They will help you. Whenever you feel bad, take one. If you still feel bad, take another. Two hours later, take another, just to be sure. It’s just like taking painkillers. After a few hours, you’ll be fast asleep. You won’t feel a thing. They really work, those anti-depressants. Don’t they?”
“I won’t overdose,” I told Death coldly, wondering how my mind could have thought up such a morbid creature. I must have, because no-one else can see him. Him, it, I’m not even sure if it matters. “Although I’ll consider it, if it means I won’t have to listen to you.”
There was a silence in which Death was still. I wondered what its face was like behind that mask, if it had one, and if it was smiling. “That was all I wanted...” it said.